The end of the road for the play test:
My gaming group finally got a chance to finish the play test and it was ugly. Although we all had fun, it was agreed by both sides that using the existing rules from the SPI’s “Gondor” hex and counter game (modified for miniatures and to fit my set-up) did not present a decent chance for victory for Sauron. The main complaint was that Sauron’s units were too weak. Even his best troops, the trolls and mumakil had the worst morale such that any “hit” against them, although difficult to roll would be devastating. In the Gondor system, a units morale determines the impact of any adverse combat die roll, so when the trolls and other “elite” units of Sauron would take damage, they tended to get destroyed in one or two shots. The Gondorian and Rohovian units, on the other hand, all have excellent morale, and usually just get a retreat and disorder result when they took damage. Sauron’s numbers, although impressive, were not enough to make up for this disparity in the quality. So it became apparent after King Theoden and his troops entered the battle, that there was no way that Sauron could ever achieve the victory conditions form the Gondor game. And that was the second major complaint, the victory conditions were too old school SPI with demoralization points for destroying enemy units vs. taking and holding terrain objectives, and were not only unobtainable for Sauron, but they were unrealistically difficult as well.
The only good news for the Witch King was that he was able to start wreaking havoc with the Minas Tirith Garrison. They were taking heavy damage, losing figures and retreating on all sides. But with the victory conditions including the requirement for Sauron to control the road to Osgoliath, as well as demoralizing the garrison and staying undemoralized himself, it was apparent that there was no way he could ever win. Additionally, although Sauron was rolling well, the Rohovians were eventually going to roll through these inferior troops, even before Aragon and his reinforcements were to arrive. Aragorn’s troops are about equal in quality to Rohan, but with less cavalry of course. The Witch King was doomed.
The next game:
With these “lessons learned” we came up with some fixes to make the game more balanced, more realistic to what Tolkien had in mind, and with more logical victory conditions. The play test also pointed out some situations that I had not envisioned when writing the rules (which forced an instant rules determination that all players were not happy with). By not following the rules from the Gondor game as closely as we had, I think we will have a much more balanced and fun game, without all of the complaining ;0